By TRACEY O’NEIL
Special to the Times
NORTH KINGSTOWN — The Quonset Officer’s Club was the setting for the start of this year’s annual Steven Siller Tunnel to Towers Memorial 5K Run.
Although in its infancy in it’s second year in Rhode Island, the race saw some of the area’s top runners come out for a morning run on the fast and flat course through Quonset.
North Kingstown residents, Robert and Michael Wilkinson took the top two spots overall and in age division with times of 17:09 and 17:32 respectively.
Teamed with Rhode Island Blue Star Moms, the North Kingstown Firefighters’ Association Local 1651 and the North Kingstown Fire Department, the race honors fallen firefighter Steven Siller of the NYFD who lost his life on September 11, 2001.
The race, run in Siller’s honor every year in New York City, expanded across the country with last year’s 10-year anniversary of the September 11 tragedy.
Siller left his station house on the morning of September 11 after completing his overnight shift, and headed out of the city. Learning of the first plane strike to the Towers, Siller turned his vehicle around, heading back into the city.
Blocked by traffic, Siller donned his gear and ran more than three miles from the Battery Tunnel to the World Trade Center, Ground Zero.
The Steven Siller Tunnel to Towers 5K run, now the anchor event of the Steven Siller Foundation, is representative of the partnership between firefighters, first responders and all branches of U.S. Armed Forces, who in a virtual passing of the torch were called to serve.
The foundation raises funds to support programs for firefighters and those who serve.
Current and retired members of the North Kingstown Fire Department, Narragansett, West Warwick and North Providence Fire Departments, some who ran in full gear, took to the course on Saturday morning. Also on hand, representing NYFD was firefighter, Julien Eyre, of Brooklyn whose brother, Christopher Eyre is a Lieutenant on the Newport Fire Department.
Representing the armed forces were many volunteers and members of Rhode Island Blue Star Moms, the Rhode Island chapter of Blue Star Mothers of America, Inc. Founded in 1940 and receiving Congressional Charter in 1962, the organization, boasting over 11,000 profiles, provides support for active duty personnel, their families and veteran’s organizations.
More than half of the Rhode Island chapter members have children who are presently deployed. Robyn Perotti, Vice President of the Rhode Island chapter, spoke to the camaraderie and mission of the organization.
“Some days are good; some days are bad,” she said. “It helps to have someone to talk to - someone who understands.”